The Yankees have talked about using a six-man rotation from time to time, but tradition has always squashed the idea. A plan to try it can’t hurt – can it?
The Yankees bullpen was beaten up pretty bad last year, and charges were levied on Aaron Boone regarding the overuse of his relievers, especially late in the season.
True or not, and even with the addition of innings-eater Gerrit Cole, it can be said the Yankees pitching staff is built around their bullpen, and Boone will once again be relying on his relievers in 2020.
Each has pitched through stretches where a decided loss in velocity was evident to anyone paying attention.
The drop-off was further dramatized in the postseason when Chapman’s command was off, walking four batters in five innings pitched. Ottavino’s ERA swelled to 8.10, and Chad Green‘s rose to 6.75.
Yankees Rotation Almost Set
Presently, the Yankees have Gerrit Cole, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and Luis Severino locked in as starters. Unless Brian Cashman can find a team willing to take on J.A. Happ‘s $17 million, he will be locked in a battle with Jordan Montgomery for the fifth spot.
The Yankees plan includes using the loser between Happ and Montgomery in the bullpen.
For either player, pitching as a reliever is something new and far different from the mental approach and preparation they employ as a starting pitcher.
Why go there? Both Happ and Montgomery offer value as a starter, and there is no reason to believe they will do anything but help the Yankees in that role.
It’s not the extra day of rest so much with a six-man rotation as it is the expectation that more innings can be consumed, and more importantly, demanded from each of the starters.
The Challenge Is To Alter The Mindset
Currently, a Yankees starter takes his turn every fifth day knowing in advance that Boone is going to give him the hook sometimes as early as the fifth inning, and most definitely if he pitches into the sixth and a man gets on base.
It’s a mentality and a mindset that rarely, if ever, has anything to do with “running out of gas.”
Every time Aaron Boone goes to Team A in the bullpen, a tax is put on those pitchers.
Innings add up and counter to prevailing thinking; logic says that innings pitched in April are the same as the ones in August, September, and finally the postseason.
A car driven in the morning is still going to eat up the same amount of gas as when it’s driven at night.
The Yankees Can Sell The Mindset
If Boone were to decide on experimenting with a six-man rotation, the focus then shifts to his starters for acceptance.
Almost immediately, Gerrit Cole would be the first to raise his hand, “Objection, your Honor – irrelevant.”
But with $234 million invested, the Yankees can and should point to the 200+ innings Cole has pitched in each of the past three seasons – plus another 65 tacked on in the postseason. Enter those outstanding communication skills Boone was hired for having.
In contrast to Cole, however, Masahiro Tanaka is likely to be overjoyed at having the extra day. Remember, the season schedule in Japan where Tanaka played before coming to the Yankees has no games scheduled on Monday.
Therefore, it was Tanaka who had to adapt to the American style of baseball. Over time, he managed it well, but a return now to every sixth day, especially as the years move on, most certainly would be welcome.
Severino and Montgomery are coming back from serious injury resulting in their absence from the Yankees last year – so the change is a natural way to ease both of them back.
What Do The Yankees Say?
As mentioned in the beginning, a six-man rotation for the Yankees is not a novel idea. And if you take a minute to Google “yankees six man rotation,” your screen will light up with page after page on articles on the subject.
Alas, it has never been tried – only talked about – and most of that talk you’ll see does not come from the Yankees.
Aaron Boone is a better baseball man than I – that goes without saying. But still, I wish for him to respond to the arguments that I consider to be reliable, and at least worth pondering.
In the meantime, you guys in the Yankees pen had better buckle up for another season in which the spotlight will be shining on you…